You’re not organic farmers but you don’t grow GMO’s? How do you talk about that?

As part of our “How do you talk about that?,” series, Shannon Seifert shares how she tells the story behind their non-organic and non-GMO farm. 

Not organic and no-GMO’s. Confused? Many are. Orange Patch Dairy doesn’t grow GMO crops, but we’re not an organic farm Non-oganic and non-GMO. How do you talk about that? with Shannon Seifert www.AgChat.orgeither.  With GMO’s in the news, this only increases the importance of communicating about our farming practices. Here are some points we use when talking about GMO’s:

Stress the importance of using crop rotation to control pests and weeds.  We’re conventional farmers, but thanks to a crop rotation which includes forage crops like alfalfa, we haven’t needed to use GMO technologies in our corn varieties.  We basically only grow corn and alfalfa to feed our cows.  Alfalfa works as a great crop to control weeds and break up our corn crop rotations.

Be transparent: when needed, we do use herbicides and insecticides.  We use chemicals as needed, based on the recommendations of our agronomist, but since our crops are fed as forage, we want to minimize the amount of chemicals we use.  We capitalize on the natural defenses of our crops.  However, this can also be said for GMO crops as well, since they allow a reduction in many chemical applications.

GMO’s are an option that we might use if needed.  We could benefit from GMO’s or might use them in the future if we face an issue where our agronomist would recommend them, but for right now, our crop rotation and farming choices don’t require GMO’s.  In the past pests like corn borer, have damaged our crops and lowered our yields, but we’ve been able to use other agronomic tools and rotation to minimize future damage.

Just like consumers, we demand choices.  When we choose our seeds for the growing season, we have a wide variety of traits to choose from: height, grain yield, forage yield, digestibility, drought resistant, standablity, tolerance to insects, resistance to herbicides, etc.  As dairy farmers, we put a strong focus on varieties that will make the best, most digestible feed for our cows first, yield comes second.  If we can grow high quality feed for our cows, we know we will get high quality milk.  A grain farmer will choose varieties that may have a higher grain yield instead; different farmers with different goals.

There’s no single “right” way to farm.  Often we forget that there is no single “right” way to farm.  Each farm has its own environment and a farmer manages and makes choices which are the best for that environment.  We make choices on how to best improve our soils, use our natural fertilizers (cow manure), and produce the most tons of forage per acre, while making sure that each pound of feed we grow helps us grow healthy cows.  We make choices that are the best for our environment and our cows.

Are you a non-GMO and non-organic farmer? How do you talk about your farm?


Shannon Seifert - Visit


Shannon Seifert is a dairy farmer from Southern Minnesota. After working a full time job as a dairy nutritionist for 4 years she returned to the farm in 2009, working side by side with her husband every day. Together they milk around 200 cows. They love what they do and wouldn’t trade it for the world. You can catch up with Shannon on the Orange Patch Dairy Facebook page or on their blog


Voting For Sessions at the 2014 Cultivate & Connect Conference

Pitch Your Session VoteWhich Three Do You Want To See? Below are the top session pitches that are now out for public vote. The top three vote getters will be presented at the AgChat Cultivate & Connect conference in Austin, Tx, August 21-22, 2014.

Voting ends 5pm ET April 23 [vote link].

Meeting Consumers Where They Already Are
Jennifer Barnett Fox and Bethany Asbell

At, the consumer-facing website for the Center for Food Integrity, our commerce is information about food. As consumers ourselves, we have an incredible opportunity to meet other consumers in digital spaces. We’re already in these areas and meet consumers there, but we know in order to create a lasting connection, we need to zero in on what consumers already find interesting about food and meet them on these topics before we try to tackle “big” issues and misperceptions.

In response to this situation, the online community managers (OCMs) at Best Food Facts created a strategy that focuses on consumer friendly conversation to engage key food influencers. Two examples of tactics that support this strategy are as follows.

The Eating Well series focuses on the beauty and fun of food: the recipes, photography and nutrition. The platform features foodie friendly, sharable images and educational blog posts on trending food topics consumers and food influencers are already discussing such as cauliflower.

The Bloggers We Love series spotlights popular food blogs by foodie influencers. Highlighting food influencers provides the opportunity to either begin or continue building relationships with those influencers as well as encourage them to share Best Food Facts with their audience.

These approaches allow the OCMs to “meet” consumers in the very places and on the very topics they are already having conversations about. Each tactic enables a touch point that builds trust and presents a future opportunity to connect on bigger issues. This strategy has increased Twitter followers and Facebook likes, influencer engagement and website visits as well as constructive conversation around food.

In the Ag Chat session, the OCMs will elaborate on this strategy and show attendees how they might use a similar strategy to accomplish their goals.

Two Tongues: Bridging the Urban/Rural Divide Through Social Media
Alison Kosakowski Conant

Ag has an image problem, and a lot of it has to do with demographics and cultural differences. Today, less than 2% of Americans make a living farming or ranching. Worse still, most don’t see agriculture firsthand in their communities, as 81% of Americans live in areas that are defined as urban or suburban. The cultural norms of city verse country life are vastly different, and create challenges in our industry’s attempts to break through to mainstream consumers.

For us to be truly effective ag communicators, we need to acknowledge that the need urban/rural divide and become “fluent” in both urban/suburban AND rural. This presentation will delve into the real, and sometimes humorous, ways urban and rural life differ (one is not better than the other, they’re just different!) and explore the opportunities for social media to bridge this divide and create meaningful engagement. The first rule of effective communication is: put yourself in your listener’s shoes.

This presentation will discuss how we can use social media to “listen” and better understand differing points of view, in an effort to meet consumers “where they are at” and create a more positive dialogue.

Cultivating Engagement among Farmers, Ranchers, and Consumers through Social Media Collaborations between Agriculturists and Home Economists
Lindsay Chichester

Wayne Gretzky, noted hockey player, said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” With 72% of online adults using social networking sites, social media should be a playing field for us (Brenner & Smith, 2013). Following the food trail from producer to plate, our team of University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension Educators is comprised of both agriculturalists and home economists.

Together, youth and adults are engaged through Twitter, blogs, Facebook, Pinterest, Youtube, LinkedIn, and SlideShare. By offering a more diverse selection of content through collaboration, we have markedly expanded the number of contacts we could have ever made individually. Information shared and provided has included but is not limited to climatic concerns, plant disease identification, youth crop activities and education, meat labeling claims, antibiotic resistance, healthy recipe ideas, food safety, and much more. Cross promoting brings in larger and new audiences since 100% of the population eats!

CASE STUDY ONE: One of the home economists reblogged an article from one of the agriculturists (who specializes in meat) on types of animal feeding practices and their effect on meat the consumer purchases. In turn, this article was shared via blog to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn by both persons.

CASE STUDY TWO: In a study of leading brands on Pinterest, (Unmetric Pindustry Report, 2013) the categories with the most repins were home [2 million], recipes [1.7 million], and food [695,000]. Capitalizing on this interest in food, an agriculturist on our team has included recipes in her blog and initiated a shared Pinterest board on “Food and Agriculture Blogs” with other agriculturalists and home economists. All add to the board, and it by seen by multiple audiences. Together this team reaches over 11,000 persons on all social media sites!

Reaching Out and Thinking Through
Janice Person and Ellen Malloy

Polarization has become far too common in the the discussion of food and farm. How can two seemingly widely different perspectives move closer to each other? It takes real communications, a willingness to listen to different opinions.

Chicago foodie Ellen Malloy & Monsanto’s Janice Person had a long way to go to find common ground. What did they learn through the process that can help others in the social media space talking about food & agriculture? That’s the topic of discussion in this session.

Personalizing Agriculture in Our Community: Faces, Farms & Food
Meaghan Huffman

Agriculture is thriving on public and private lands in Boulder County, Colorado, despite its location along the increasingly urbanized Front Range. Boulder County Parks and Open Space (BCPOS) owns and manages 25,000 acres of agricultural lands, leased to 80 farmers and ranchers. The juxtaposition of agriculture with an urban environment provides the opportunity to address a lack of consumer knowledge.

During a politically charged Cropland Policy process in 2010, BCPOS saw the first-hand lack of public understanding about local food production by farmers and ranchers on public lands. To start our agriculture education program, we began hosting farm bus tours on our open space agriculture lands, starting with one bus of 50 participants, and expanding up to 200 participants per tour. When people are able to meet the farmers, hear them speak about their family farms and see their passion for what they do and the land they make a living from, we see a change in public perception of agriculture. As our program grows we realize that not everyone is able to attend bus tour, so we decided to reach out through our website and social media.

Our audiences have ranged from school aged children to senior citizens. We have created a YouTube Channel displaying videos that document crop harvests (over 32,000 views), developed an online harvest map (Version 2 going live this summer), shared farmer profiles on our website and created “Local Food Loops” to share the story from field to plate. We also joined Twitter and are continuously finding new ways to engage our audiences. We tweet photos and quotes while on our public farm tours, share information on upcoming agriculture events and, tweet photos and current happenings on the farms. BCPOS continually works to find new and innovative ways to engage our community in agriculture.

Traditional Storytelling in a Digital World
Earl Lundquist and Lindsey Pope

Since the beginning of time, knowledge and history have been passed down through the art of storytelling. Few things in life are as good as listening to a great story, like one you may hear as a compelling life tale from a hard-working Texas farmer or rancher. At the Texas Department of Agriculture, we utilize social media channels to tell great stories, and connect urban and rural Texans. We work hard to engage and empower our followers by making them a part of our story.

Communities are built by cultivating relationships. We’ve used this approach to create viral videos, double our Facebook community, triple our Twitter following, and greatly increase the number of women and international members within our online ag communities. Take our social media campaign for our most recent Family Land Heritage ceremony as an example. Through our storytelling, we were able to honor the legacies of our farmers and ranchers, while also bringing a larger audience along for the ride, even if they were not physically present. This strategy has proven itself to be a great success in engaging our community. We tell stories to share the amazing work done by TDA and the farmers and ranchers who call Texas home. We also use stories to share how technology and science play a critical role in feeding a growing population.

At TDA, we combine one of the oldest art forms — storytelling — with the latest social media tools to share our mission and the rich tradition of farming and ranching in Texas.

Mirrors, Windshields & Agriculture – (Visual Storytelling)
Jan Hoadley

This looks at telling the story of agriculture from a visual standpoint. Why storytelling, why visual and the how of visual are brought forth, with tips under each section. We’re familiar with windshields as a means of looking where we’re going – the mirrors are the perspective of what we see, what is behind us and what the consumer sees.

How to effectively bring those together using “old fashion storytelling” along with photos and/or video is the focus of this session. Visual increases engagement and reduces perception issues (after all that warning of things are closer than they seem isn’t just for mirrors!).

Turn off Your Tech, Rest Your Thumbs!
Lorna Wilson

In today’s fast social media driven society, we appear to be losing the all important face-to-face method of networking which can provide information unavailable through our tech-devices. The power to connect and get your message out there is stronger and credibility is increased when there is a personal connection.

Renew your person-to-person meeting skills at this fun interactive session, while learning how to blend the traditional style of networking with current technology. First time attendees as well as alumni are encouraged to attend this session where new and vital contacts will be fostered.

Voting ends 5pm ET April 23 [vote link].

Farmer In the Spotlight – Nicole Small and The County Fair Linky Party

Telling your story is an important piece of agriculture advocacy but its only a piece. What happens to your story if it doesn’t reach your Nicole Small, Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom hosts The County Fair Blog Linky Party each Friday. intended audience? It remains an untold story. So how do we get to those audiences? Nicole Small, of Tales of a Kansas Farm Mom and known for her Flat Aggie series, has once again reached into her bag of tricks to develop The County Fair project. We were able to catch up with Nicole to learn more about this new project and how she agvocates.
What is The Country Fair Blog Party and how does it work?
The Country Fair Blog Party (aka Linky Party) is where bloggers can link up 1-3 of their own posts to the party. The links show up on all of the co-hosts blogs. We welcome any topic, but each week we feature the most viewed posts in the following 3 categories: Agriculture, Food, and DIY Projects.
While we don’t award “prizes” we do feature the favorite posts the next week. I know from the experience of being featured on other parties that it can get you 100+ hits on an old post. We try to invite at least 3 non ag bloggers each week to the party. I usually invite newer food blogs. And, we invite newer ag blogs when we find them as well.
How did you come up with the idea for the County Fair? 
I have a pig farmer wife friend who reads lots of blogs.  She kept finding these linky parties that she insisted I participate in.  They really Linky Party on helped me reach beyond my friends and family and find a whole new group of followers and bloggers to follow and learn from.
I got to thinking that I needed to try to get some of my ag friends to join in the fun and decided to try one of my own.
How has the County Fair project increased your engagement with non-agriculture folks?

We are still in the infancy of this project, but I keep inviting food bloggers to link up with us each week and I am getting them to link up, but more importantly they are starting to follow me on other outlets so we continue the conversations about how food is raised.
What & how much do you farm?

We raise corn, soybeans, wheat, milo, hay and cow/calf  6000 acres
How long have you been blogging?

I started blogging in March of 2012.
Which social media outlet is your favorite and which is most successful?

I prefer to use Facebook currently, but Pinterest definitely drives the most traffic to my blog.
You are also the founder of the #FlatAggie project. Tell us a little bit about that project and the results as far as reaching non-farm/ranch folks.
I can not take credit for the founding Flat Aggie that does to the Sarah of The House That Ag Built, but she has been excited to watch our Aggie’s as well as her own class’s.  I love this project, because I can get farmers to talk about their farms that wouldn’t normally.  They will write a report for kids with a paper doll, because it isn’t as intimidating as talking with adults.  The funny thing is that so many are so far removed from the farm that often we need to break things down to the kids level for them to be understood.  I can’t tell you how many adults (especially the teachers that sent Flat Aggie out) tell me that they have learned so much from the reports.
It has been a great way for me to get agriculture into 4 classrooms in 2 states (Kansas and California) on a regular basis.  I can work on the reports when I have time and the teachers can present them when they have time.  It is a win win for both of us and the kids love the reports.

ACF Announces Luncheon Keynote Speaker U.S. Olympian Katie Uhlaender

We’re extremely excited to announce, the addition of U.S. Olympian Katie Uhlaender to the 2014 Cultivate & Announcing Katie Uhlaender as the luncheon keynote of the 2013 Cultivate & Connect conference - Photo courtesy of Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports. Visit to register!Connect keynote lineup.

Katie is a U.S. Olympic skeleton racer, accomplished weightlifter and passionate farmer. She is a three-time Winter Olympian, a two-time Skeleton World Cup champion and the 2012 World Champion. When Katie isn’t training for her next competition, you can find her on her family’s Northwest Kansas farm. Katie is a proud agriculture advocate and believes athletes and farmers live a very similar lifestyle.

Katie will be sharing her unique and touching story while sharing her go-to tips when advocating for agriculture. Don’t miss out on meeting a true American hero!

Seating for ACF’s 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference is limited. Be sure to register today! Early bird pricing ends May 25th.



David Hayden – Better Conversations When You Push Yourself At Conferences

David Hayden discusses the benefits of attending AgChat conferences. Visit to register for the 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference!Conversation with David Hayden – David says that going to the AgChat Conference in 2012 pushed him to reach beyond his “normal” audience and have better conversations about food and agriculture with non-ag focused people [audio].

Seating is limited at the 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference so register early!

Direct link to MP3 audio.

Inspiration comes from innovation: the ripple effect

This week AgChat Foundation is celebrating the 5th Anniversary for the #AgChat & #FoodChat Twitter conversations & the 4th Anniversary for the foundation. Join us on April 8th, 8-10pmET on Twitter for a special anniversary chat discussing what is needed in social media for agriculture!

Airplanes are thinking time to me. That means January thru March involves a lot of brain time as I fly between

Flying - Jenny Schweigert The Magic FarmHouse.comspeaking engagements. Five winters ago, a recurring thought continued to gnaw at me; social media offered an opportunity for agriculture to work together and to reach people interested in food. At the time, I had been on Facebook and Twitter since mid-2008, blogged for a couple of years, and been active in other channels. My original purpose in being a part of social media was to inform, inspire and incite conversations around farm and food – and that purpose remains the same today. 

Like many, I thought Twitter was stupid for the first several months. Then in January 2009, I started tweeting out food facts on a regular basis – and the day when one of those was picked up by mainstream media – I decided perhaps the Twitterverse may actually have value. About the same time, I started participating in #Journchat, a weekly chat for journalists.

My experience in watching that conversation provoked my thinking that maybe Twitter was a tool to draw agriculture together, while also taking the ag message beyond the choir.  After all, I had preached for years in my trainings that agriculture needed to work together and get our stories into mainstream. It’s important to practice what I preach, so when travel season slowed down, I threw the idea out on Twitter about #AgChat and #FoodChat on Twitter the first week of April 2009 – let’s get together for a couple of hours on Tuesday night.  Aside from reaching out to ag folks I knew on Twitter, there was no great campaign or strategy behind starting the first #AgChat on April 8, 2009. It was simply an idea in a land of pioneers. I honestly thought it might get shot down pretty quickly, but I live by a life philosophy of “no risk, no reward.”

There was a fair amount of behind-the-scenes minutia, such as setting up a Twitter account, messaging my network to get the word out, identifying the right time and figuring how to best promote the growing chat – particularly in the food world. It was important it wasn’t just chatter, so I approached it the same way I facilitate meetings. There would be a moderator to help guide the chat participants would contribute and professional behavior was expected.

The first chat made it pretty clear that the pioneers wanted to talk about how to speak out for agriculture, so I started asking people to DM questions for the conversation. Then, for a long time, I was tied to my office every Tuesday night 8-10 p.m., E.T., moderating the fast-paced chat. To this day, I believe the community participation drives ownership and the growth of the cause. However, I also see egos infringe upon that philosophy from time to time, but dedicated leaders continue to focus on the people served – and the bigger cause of connecting people around the plate.

While I moderated all of the chats in the early days, travel necessitated guest moderators, many of whom served on the founding board for the AgChat Foundation. As the chat grew, the pundits did as well. The consistently facilitated structure of #AgChat/#Foodchat unquestionably served to keep the weekly conversations civil. As the chats grew and gained a lot of visibility, I was accused of being paid by corporations, had my personal integrity questioned and learned to let names like “paid prostitute” slide.

The community consistently stepped up to defend those who were trying to add depth to agriculture’s voice and it became apparent we needed to facilitate the “town hall” concept as much as we could. There was also the reality that I couldn’t handle everything myself. Many of the #AgChat/#Foodchat pioneers volunteered to moderate, invite people, track data, archive the conversations, get media coverage – and they were amazingly effective (they know who they were – and I’m afraid of missing someone, so am not listing any names). There’s no doubt it took a village! Ideas flowed, our community connected in other ways, campaigns around activist claims were executed and mainstream media was fascinated that farmers used technology.

Ideas of what to do with #AgChat and #FoodChat’s engaged community came from across the U.S. and Canada. Early social media acquaintances became collaborators with longtime friends from across North America. My greatest concern was how to keep the community going regardless of the change in social platforms – and ensure it remained for the good of the cause.

Companies and agencies offered money to have their name attached to the effort, but no dollars were accepted so that it could be truly grassroots. It became easier to get the food circles involved in #Foodchat and we had a variety of special guests. Eventually a group of us came together to form the AgChat Foundation, which would be launched on the first year anniversary of #AgChat. The Foundation has trained hundreds of new “agvocates”, raised substantial money to help farmers and ranchers, hired staff to keep the details in order and started managing the weekly chats two years ago (unfortunately, I rarely get to moderate or participate due to my schedule).

Does AgChat provide all the answers to agriculture’s problems? No. Does agriculture still struggle with working together and going beyond the choir? Yes. Has #AgChat/#FoodChat, and subsequently the AgChat Foundation, facilitated the conversation to bring those groups closer together? Absolutely. Is there only one way to tell our story and can it only be done through social media? Not a chance. Do we have more to do? Every day.

I stand in awe of the people in our community and the leaders who serve them. For example, each of the 35 contributors in my first book No More Food Fights!  is a relationship established through this community. However, my admiration goes beyond just the early adopters, many of whom have become wonderful friends.

The first annual AgChat Foundation Agvocacy conference held in 2010.

Last year’s national conference brought together a roomful of people two or three degree degrees removed from the founding board of the AgChat Foundation, which I believe clearly illustrates how the community has made an impact. I have been quietly inspired by watching many of them sharing their farm story and bring others to the plate to do the same.

The ripple effect is in action and continues to touch new people daily. Little did I know the reach and breadth of an idea started five years ago, but I am thankful for the inspiration this community continues to provide around the farm and food conversation. As we celebrate the fifth anniversary of #AgChat and #FoodChat, I also have to ask… what’s next? Food for thought on the next airplane…or tractor ride. May the innovation continue!

Happy 5th Anniversary #AgChat/#FoodChat!!

written by Michele Payn-Knoper, CSP


michele-payn-knoper-251x300Whether armed with a facilitator’s hat, a cow halter or boxing gloves by her microphone, Michele Payn-Knoper is known for her agricultural advocacy work as the principal of Cause Matters Corp. Her family’s small farm in central Indiana includes registered Holsteins descending from a heifer she purchased at the age of 12. She works internationally to build connections between the farm gate and consumer plate as a Certified Speaking Professional and writer, inspiring others to agvocate. “Social media once seemed like a silly fad, but I’ve learned the power of a community transcends the tool – as proven by this Foundation.”

Take the 2014 Farmer Challenge – #2014FarmerChallenge

Oregon farmer and alumnus of ACF’s 2014 Northwest Regional Agvocacy conference, Brenda Frketich has taken a good friend’s challenge and ran with it. Fellow farmer Dan Worley, also of Oregon, put the video below on Facebook yesterday asking farmers and ranchers to take a few minutes to share what they do during the day.

2014 Farmer Challenge via

Frketich not only met her friend’s challenge, she and have teamed up to put all of your videos in one place. We echo their efforts and encourage you all to make your own video simply showing a bit about your day on the farm or ranch. Be sure to visit to view other’s videos including Frketich’s.

So, we do wonder, would these be called #FarmerVelfies?

Ready, set, VIDEO!

Nicole Small – What is Flat Aggie and tips on attending Cultivate & Connect conference

Nicole Small - What is Flat Aggie and tips on attending Cultivate & Connect conference in Austin, TX Aug 21 & 22 Conversation with Nicole Small about how she approaches social media in agriculture and her tips on attending the upcoming Cultivate & Connect conference in Austin, TX [audio].

Seating is limited at the 2014 Cultivate & Connect conference so register early!

Direct link to MP3 audio.

Keep celebrating 365 days a year

The agriculture community has pulled out all of the stop during this year’s National Ag Day & week! As the celebration continues we’d like to share some of the fantastic blog posts we’ve seen this week. How will you keep celebrating 365 days a year?

Have you written a blog post about National Ag Day or Week? Send a link to or comment below.

Happy Agriculture!!

March 18th, 2014 – FoodChat on Food Labels

FoodChat on Food Labels What Is On Your Food Label? Food labels offer help in understanding food nutrition, health impacts, freshness, and storage. Marketing also plays a part on the food label, helping advertise the ideas of organic, natural, or fresh. In the US, the Nutrition Facts label is being updated to reflect consumer demands on wanting to know more about their food. This FoodChat conversation looks at some of the issues and concerns plus offers thoughts on the food label future.
[Read more...]